26 April 2023

Morning prayers in Easter
with USPG: (18) 26 April 2023

Saint Salvator Church is a landmark in Prague, marking the entrance from the Charles Bridge into the Old Town (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

We are still in the season of Easter, and this is the Third Week of Easter.

Following our visit to Prague earlier this month, I am reflecting each morning this week in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a church in Prague;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

A large banner across the façade of Saint Salvator Church demands: ‘Hands off Ukraine, Putin!’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Saint Salvator Church, Prague:

In the square in front of the Charles Bridge in Prague, tourists facing east towards the Old Town face a large banner across the façade of Saint Salvator Church demanding: ‘Hands off Ukraine, Putin!’

Saint Salvator Church is a city landmark, marking the entrance from the Charles Bridge into the Old Town, and is one the best examples of early Baroque architecture in Prague. It is part of the former Jesuit College of Saint Clement or Klementinum, a large and historic complex of buildings in the Old Town. Today, this is the church of the academic parish in Prague.

The church was built on the foundations of the Gothic Church of Saint Clement, which was attached to the Dominican Order. The Jesuits under Giovanni Paolo Campana began building a new church in the Renaissance style with a chancel and transepts, in 1578-1601. The work was started by Marco Fontana di Brusata.

The church was renovated in the Baroque style by the Italian architect Carlo Lurago in 1649-1654, when the nave was built and a marble portal and portico were added at the west end. Lurago was inspired in his design by Il Gesu, the main Jesuit church in Rome, a model for many churches in the Baroque era.

The statues on the façade and the portico were designed by Jan Jiří Bendl. The main figures represent Christ the Saviour, flanked by the four evangelists. The niche in the gable holds a statue of the Virgin Mary. At the opposite ends of the façade are statues of Saint Ignatius Loyola, the founder of Jesuits, and Saint Francis Xavier, the Jesuit missionary. There are statues of the Church Fathers on the balustrade.

The church towers were modified and raised in 1714 by architect František Maximilián Kaňka. At the end of the 1740s, a dome was hung above the sanctuary, decorated with stucco from the workshop of Johann Georg Bendl. The stucco decoration later had to be removed because of its weight and replaced.

Inside, the church is deceptively large, with rich stucco decorations. There are three aisles with galleries, and the high central aisle leads to a dome painted with frescos.

The altarpiece painted by Jiří Hering in 1632 is modelled on ‘The Transfiguration of Christ’ by Raphael in the Vatican. The ceiling fresco symbolises the four continents known at the time. There are statues of Saint Wenceslas and Saint Adalbert in the aisles.

In the middle of the left aisle is a rococo altarpiece of Saint Aloysius, and an altar with a statue of Saint Ignatius flanked by statues of Saint Paul and Saint Peter.

In the middle of the right aisle is a rococo altarpiece of Saint Stanislaus Kostka, with a baroque altarpiece of Saint Francis Xavier, flanked by statues representing India and Asia.

An 18th-century rococo pulpit has a statue of Moses at the summit and statues of Church Fathers below, and with statues of the four evangelists at the top of the canopy.

The twelve confessionals, carved between 1660 and 1670 by Bendl, have statues of 12 apostles. A 17th-century grille separates the nave from the antechamber, where there are two marble fonts dating from the 1600s.

The church hides a paradox that tells one chapter in the work of the Jesuits in Bohemia: Father Koniáš, the ‘destroyer of Czech books,’ and Bohuslav Balbín, known as the ‘defender of the Czech language,’ are both buried in the crypt.

Saint Salvator Church has two magnificent organs, both played at Mass and during classical music concerts in the church, which has a long tradition of organ concerts. The recently restored 18th century organ was played by many Jesuit composers who worked in the church and by 18th century composers including Jan Dismas Zelenka and Jakub Jan Ryba.

Today, Saint Salvator Church offers a place for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and is open to spiritual seekers and non-active Christians.

Inside, Saint Salvator Church is deceptively large, with rich stucco decorations (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

John 6: 35-40 (NRSVA):

35 Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38 for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’

The north aisle in Saint Salvator Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Praying for Peace.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by the Anglican Chaplain in Warsaw, Poland, the Revd David Brown, who reflected on peace in the light of Monday’s International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace.

The USPG Prayer invites us to pray this morning (26 April 2023):

Let us pray for the people of Ukraine. May they bear one another’s burdens, know fortitude in the face of exhaustion and be upheld by the prayers of those seeking peace and justice.


Almighty Father,
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
with the sight of the risen Lord:
give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Living God,
your Son made himself known to his disciples
in the breaking of bread:
open the eyes of our faith,
that we may see him in all his redeeming work;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Looking out onto the Charles Bridge from Saint Salvator Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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